Patty and I spent 2016 Thanksgiving weekend with her family in Uxbridge, Mass. Races here are big and frequent. I signed up for NECXBAR Finals in Fitchberg. Her cousin, Paul, lent me a classic S-Works for the race. The commute was an easy 50 minute drive in a borrowed car. A collaborative effort made this happen.
The race: I chose poorly on my line-up position because the first row guy in my file slowed me down. I was ~15th out of the first straightaway. The course was laid out with several long-ish power sections through grass and paths, interspersed with tight turn sections. The field strung out quickly and 15th position was far from ideal -- slow to a crawl in the turns, then sprint to catch up in the straights. I made a few risky passes, then fell on a crossed wheel half-way into the first lap and lost another 4 positions. By end of lap 1, a group of heavy hitters were well clear, and I was still ~15th. Through the rest of the 5-lap race, some in front crashed or faded… always someone to chase (and be chased by). My lap times got faster (Strava file), and I was digging deep and dishing as much pain as I was dished. It was a fight for position all the way to the final sprint, where seconds differed positions in front and behind me. I was happy with a top-10 finish - 8th. Main take-away is the importance of a good start.
Equipment: You know the “no equipment changes before the race” rule? That was completely violated on this race… a compromise for the opportunity to race during a family visit on Thanksgiving. Paul Knapik, Patty’s cousin, lent me his ~10 year old Specialized S-works CX bike - a top machine in its prime, and more than adequate for me. Bonus - frame size was perfect. He has it set up with rear brake on the left lever (!). I’m not used to that. The rationale is the ability to storm into a barrier with your [left] hand on the rear brake, and your right hand free to start the carry. It’s a good idea that can shave time… but better to make the change between CX seasons. The set-up worked well for barriers when I had time to mentally prepare for left-hand braking. It worked poorly for the times I overshot corners and grabbed a big piece of front brake. I’m grateful for the use of the bike and the idea -- strongly considering the brake arrangement for the ‘17/’18 season.
I’m signing off for now. See my next blog on the MTB aspect of my 2016 Thanksgiving visit to New England.